How an Early Change can Ripple Through your Story
I’m going to tell you how a simple change early in my story reaped benefits later on. In doing so, perhaps I can provide some useful advice about solving problems.
Punched Him Right in the Prologue
So I’ve been making some progress on an older project I’ve returned to, and this was a result of feedback from Matt. I had a prologue, which I liked, thought it worked fine, but it just wasn’t punchy enough. It started off slow, and then heated up action wise, when it should have done the opposite.
It is an old writing maxim that one should start a scene as late as possible, and finish it as soon as possible. So this is what I did. I kinda flipped the stakes of the scene, had the emergency happen first, and then allowed some breathing room. This was doubly helpful because it allowed me to more clearly emphasise the stakes, and in turn, this made a lot of things later in the story fall neatly into place.
Previously, I had a B-Plot that severely lacked momentum. I felt it needed to be there, just as a counterpoint to the A-Plot, but it did lack that… something. It didn’t have that push, that drive that the A-Plot had. Making this one simple change in the prologue however, changed that, at least in my head. Now I had stakes for my B-Plot too, and not just vague ones in my head, but stakes that were clear in the narrative.
This is of course very important. Instead of the reader having to follow the story, they should be swept up in it, and be carried along for the ride. It is the difference between a slog, and not being able to put the book down. You do the work, not the reader. This way the story can flow much more easily, and just this one change had done this. Like throwing a pebble into a pond, and the ripples sweeping the story along with them.
Before I start abusing the metaphors again though…
Herein lies a danger, which I had discovered from re-reading random samples of the whole project. The first section I have worked over so many times, and it’s beginning to show. It’s all well and good to redraft something, but you can rework something too much. Those first chapters were beginning to show signs of wear and tear from the number of times I’ve gone over them, like a t-shirt that fades from being washed too much.
Later in the book however, the writing – though flawed in terms of plotting (due to the changes I’d made) – flowed, and felt far fresher than the opening section. It was just more vibrant and lively, not as weighed down from perpetual redrafting.
I will of course have to do significant work on these sections, but the real skill is to make these changes while still capturing the ease and freshness of the original draft.
Also, it finally allowed me to come up with a fitting ending to the whole thing, one that actually worked both on paper and in my head. Now all I have to do is get that down on paper.
So over to you guys. Have you had any serious issues with a project? What changes did you make that helped the process? Have you had any problems with overdrafting? Fling your thoughts into the comments below.